As we close out chapter 15, I feel I need to recap verses 20, 21.
My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says, “Those who have never been told about him will see, and those who have never heard of him will understand.”
(Romans 15:20-21 NLT)
So what did Paul say in the verses above?
- That he wanted to preach in places where the name of Jesus had never been heard;
- and that he wanted to lay a foundation among people who do not have a foundation already started by someone else.
- “Those who have never been told about him will see, and those who have never heard of him will understand.”
Why would someone else’s foundation be a bad thing?
In my last post, I asked a couple of questions along this line of thinking. The answer is, of course, it wouldn’t unless they were laying a foundation that is dramatically different than what Paul has been laying and, most likely, in opposition.
The next question then is, what did Paul’s foundation look like?
The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18 NLT)
Obviously, the cross is central to who He is and who we are.
No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.
(1 Corinthians 2:7-10 NLT)
The mystery; the things God has prepared for us; all of it has been revealed to us (those who follow after Him) by His Spirit.
Although he was crucified in weakness, he now lives by the power of God. We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but when we deal with you, we will be alive with him and will have God’s power.
(2 Corinthians 13:4 NLT)
Jesus was crucified in weakness; at least that is how the world perceives it. But, he now lives by the power of God, and we also live through that power.
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NLT)
In associating ourselves with the life of Christ, we became baptized (I am talking about water baptism, although NOT mandatory.) In doing that, we presented ourselves as dead in Christ. It doesn’t end there, as we, by the same process, are made to rise with Him. Yes, it is all representational while we are here on earth, but there is a day coming when He shall gather those who are awaiting Him, to Himself.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. (Galatians 5:24 NLT)
This foundation stone that we see in Galatians 5:24 is confusing for many because we get it preached to us in a manner that leads you to believe that you MUST live like this, and we cannot. Yes, the Holy Spirit, living inside of you, will lead and guide us into all truth, and, we are told, we cannot abide in sin. But the reality is that we will be somewhat tortured by our constant failures as we try to hit the bullseye. (Missing the bullseye is deemed to be sin.)
Mercy is certainly an aspect of that foundation. It is an aspect that seems in opposition to the laws of God, that we find in the Old Testament; the mercy is there, but it is merely cloaked. Search within the letters that Paul wrote, and you will 19 references to Mercy; 22 if you include the letter to the Hebrews. Here are a few.
1Corinthians 7:25 the Lord in his mercy has given me wisdom that can be trusted, and I will share it with you.
2Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, …
Galatians 1:6 God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. …
Ephesians 2:4-6 (NLT) But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. …
Colossians 3:12 God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, …
1Timothy 1:16 God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. …
Titus 3:5 he saved us, … because of his mercy.
Hebrews 4:16 let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
So, to make this brief, the foundation Paul preached is:
- the cross,
- our being in Him,
- and mercy.
If you think about the ramifications of those simple words, and what they mean to our relationship with the Father, they speak volumes.
With all that in mind, Paul says,
Rom 15:22 This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.
Here is where the NASB entitles the next section:
Paul’s Plan to Visit Rome
As I sat through a book study on Acts, I never saw it as a planned visit. I saw phrases like this: “the Holy Spirit would not let them preach in Asia;” and, “the Spirit of Jesus would not let them.” On one occasion we got this,
During the night, Paul had a vision of someone from Macedonia who was standing there and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” After Paul had seen the vision, we began looking for a way to go to Macedonia. We were sure that God had called us to preach the good news there. (Acts 16:9-10 CEV)
Scripture does give us a well-spaced chain of events, that demonstrates Paul’s desire to go to Rome.
In Acts 18:2 – 19:21 we learn that Priscilla and Aquila, acquaintances who have become close friends of Paul, had been forced out of Rome, along all the other Jews, by the order of Emperor Claudius. This story ends with this: “Paul decided to visit Macedonia and Achaia on his way to Jerusalem. Paul had said, “From there I will go on to Rome.”
In Acts 20:16 we see Paul migrating back to Jerusalem because, “He was in a hurry and wanted to be in Jerusalem in time for Pentecost.” At almost every stop the Jews rose up against him when he spoke. Acts 21:10-11 finds Paul north of Jerusalem in Caesarea. After several days, the prophet Agabus, who came from Judea, south of Jerusalem, took Paul’s belt, and with it tied up his own hands and feet, while saying, “The Holy Spirit says that some of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will tie up the man who owns this belt, and, they will also hand him over to the Gentiles.” The Gentiles, in this case, were the Roman guards.
The trek now has Paul, a prisoner, headed to Rome, as he, by right of citizenship, could appeal his case to Caesar, which he did. Storms, shipwrecks, and snakes; it sounds like an Indiana Jones movie. In the midst of this journey, which I am sure some would see as nothing short of negative, “the Lord stood beside Paul and said, Don’t worry! Just as you have told others about me in Jerusalem, you must also tell about me in Rome.” And that takes us to Acts 23:11.
Paul may have interacted with the very people he longed to see, but we do not see him physically going to their meeting place. What we do see, is that Paul got to preach to the virgin territory that Isaiah spoke of, the Emperor himself.
I give you Eugene Peterson’s take on Paul’s recollection.
Romans 15:23-29 MSG But now that there is no more pioneering work to be done in these parts, and since I have looked forward to seeing you for many years, I’m planning my visit. I’m headed for Spain, and expect to stop off on the way to enjoy a good visit with you, and eventually have you send me off with God’s blessing. First, though, I’m going to Jerusalem to deliver a relief offering to the Christians there. The Greeks—all the way from the Macedonians in the north to the Achaians in the south—decided they wanted to take up a collection for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem. They were happy to do this, but it was also their duty. Seeing that they got in on all the spiritual gifts that flowed out of the Jerusalem community so generously, it is only right that they do what they can to relieve their poverty. As soon as I have done this—personally handed over this “fruit basket”—I’m off to Spain, with a stopover with you in Rome. My hope is that my visit with you is going to be one of Christ’s more extravagant blessings.
Paul, by way of this letter, asks these fellow believers in Rome to pray, with some urgency, for him.
Romans 15:30 NLT Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit.
Here is what he asked them to pray for.
Romans 15:31-32 NLT
Pray that I will be rescued from those in Judea who refuse to obey God.
Pray also that the believers there will be willing to accept the donation I am taking to Jerusalem.
Then, by the will of God, I will be able to come to you with a joyful heart, and we will be an encouragement to each other.
Stop and think about what he asked them. He asked to be rescued from those who refuse to obey God.
Doesn’t that imply that in some manner, whether Jewish or a follower of Christ, they are refusing to obey God?
Several months ago I was involved in, what the leader called, a man-cave. It was just a bunch of guys who found a place they could, under the guise of being in a Christian environment, act like they were in a bar. Yep, I said it. I was already deep into this study of Romans and had seen how the law was still a part of our lives. In this mancave setting, I saw a horrendous correlation between what Paul said, is this law that is written upon our hearts, and an unrestrained concept of mercy and grace. This unrestrained version is a grace that some, not only preach but feel it gives them the right to refuse to obey God’s law. Much to no avail, I pointed out that Jesus came to fulfill the law, NOT do away with the law. That law is God’s law, and, as I said, it is written upon our hearts. It is what keeps you from going completely over the edge.
Why would believers, even if they are from the South, so to speak, in Judea, try to block Paul from taking a donation to Jerusalem?
To be honest, we don’t have an answer to that. One thing that jumps out in my mind, is that Judea suffered a huge economic blow from a recent famine, and may be in a hoarding mode. (I covered this in the previous post.) You also noticed that I used the phrase, “the South.” Here in America, “the South” still carries overtones of bigotry, slavery, hard-drinking, and some generally rough characteristics. Now whether that is the case here, I don’t know, but it could be. And there is one other thing. How would you know if someone was there to swindle you? Swindlers are not something new, as SIN has always been with us, and a swindler always thinks that someone is out to swindle them.
This leads me to a pastor of mine. Although I do not call him a friend, he is a decent and generous man. There were services when the Holy Spirit would be so evident, that he would forget to take up an offering; and yet, because he made sure the church tithed on the income they took in, we, as a church, were always able to pay our bills. Offerings were taken up to build in Mexico, and so we built; of all the things I have done in my life, that was the most rewarding. And, most recently, although an anonymous person had financed the construction of the building we use, and this financing had a ridiculously low-interest rate, with no pressure to pay it back, he once again took up an offering, because he felt strongly that we needed to pay this person off, and in rather short haste, we, as a church body did just that. The point here is this, we, as a church, learned to trust this pastor’s financial leadership. Is this the case with Paul? We don’t know.
Paul, as is his habit in closing, says,
Romans 15:33 NLT And now may God, who gives us his peace, be with you all. Amen.